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The Conscious Coach as Midwife

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Elena Aguilar in Search of a Metaphor for Coaching (2014) (1) identified three coaching metaphors recognising that they did not adequately capture coaching as a partnership. The first metaphor is of a farmer who cultivates effective teachers and leaders. I think of how attentive farmers must be to weather systems and soil quality and the context in which plants grow. As a coach, I have to be aware of the systems that impact my client. I need to be conscious of the context in which they’re working, of their own “ripeness” or “readiness” to grow. Farmers also have to have exceptional patience, letting the plants grow in their time, and the ability to let control and trust the process.

The second metaphor is that of a chiropractor who is paying attention to body misalignment and pressure points. She says, as a coach, I feel like my role is to help a client find those spots where they’re out of alignment. And relieve pain points in asking the right questions. Sometimes to professionally develop and become empowered, we need a little adjustment and healing.

Finally, the third metaphor that resonates with her is that a coach is like a tour guide. A tour jointly planned and undertaken together. On this journey together, as a coach, I may know at times that will help the client, but I also have tools and resources, encouragement, and feedback that might help the client be more effective. I often feel like when I meet a new client we’re about to embark on a significant, life-changing trip together.

As much as these metaphors resonate with Aguilla, she has doubts about them saying “I worry that they place too much of the action of coaching on the coach. To me, coaching is a partnership that only works if both parties are equally engaged.

At the International Coach Federation European Conference in Italy, Robert Dilts ran a seminal session titled ‘From Coach to Awakener’.(2) He stated that coaching is the process of helping another person perform at the peak of his or her abilities. It doesn’t assume people are broken and need fixing. On the contrary, it helps them identify and develop their strengths. It starts from the assumption that people have the answers and that the coach’s role is to help that person to overcome internal resistances and interferences, give feedback on behaviour, and give tips and guidance. But Dilt added that a coach plays five other roles:

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